Happy Thanksgiving – A Few Thanksgiving Thoughts (Updated).
Thanksgiving is often thought of as time of feasting and indulgence and for many, it means a time of over indulgence. As such, I wanted to share some personal thoughts on Thanksgiving.
Throughout history, many cultures have enjoyed great feasts to mark the important and joyous occasions of the year. These feast days traditionally occurred only a few times a year and any overindulgence was confined to these few days of celebration. However, today, the spirit of celebration and the notion of a “little indulgence” have been taken to extremes as more and more Americans treat every day and every meal as a holiday and a time to overindulge.
Over the past 40 years, rates of overweight, obesity and related health problems have increased rapidly. Today, over two-thirds of American adults and about one-third of children and teens are obese or overweight. This extra weight increases an individual’s risk of developing many chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and cancer. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that obesity kills more than 110,000 Americans each year.
Everyday, throughout the year, American meals tend to provide portions that are too large and have too much fat, salt, sugar and too many calories. A large disparity exists between recommendations for a healthy diet and actual food consumption habits. Excessive intakes of sodium, solid fats (major sources of saturated and trans-fatty acids), added oils, added sugars and refined grains often replace intakes of healthy nutritious foods in the diet, making it difficult for people to achieve recommended nutrient intake while controlling calorie intake. The negative health effects of these eating habits are further compounded by the sedentary lifestyle of many Americans.
Commitment to a healthy diet is one of the most important components — if not the most important component — of an individual’s overall health and well–being. A healthy diet is one that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, starchy vegetables, intact whole grains and legumes and limits the intake of added sodium, saturated fats, added sugars/sweeteners, added solid fats/oils, refined grains and overly processed foods. The key to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight – during the holidays and all year-round – is to live a healthy lifestyle on a day-to-day basis that includes healthy eating, regular physical activity and stress management.
This is one of my favorite food quotes of all time and comes from the book, “The Life We Are Given” by George Leonard & Michael Murphy. I think it has a powerful message that is appropriate for this time of the year.
“How we eat stands as a fundamental expression of our embodiment and is thus important to our life, not merely for the benefits it might bring but also for its own sake. To eat with full awareness turns us naturally toward a diet that is both good and good for us. It rejoins us with the core of our existence and can inspire us with “thanksgiving” for the everyday wonder of food, and for the everlasting miracle of life that we have been given.”
The holidays are a time to celebrate, give thanks and, yes, perhaps for some of us, even overindulge a little. It is important to remember, however, that Thanksgiving is just one meal on one day and is not the start of a month–and–a–half long celebration. The occasional indulgence on the occasional holiday (i.e., the actual day & meal itself) will most likely not be damaging to overall health and well–being if it is truly an exception and healthy eating and exercising take place on a regular consistent daily basis throughout the rest of the year.
The holidays are also a time to focus on family and friends — not just food. Catching up and sharing laughs with loved ones will allow you to feel the spirit of the holidays more than a second helping of pie. Allow yourself to celebrate, but do so without throwing all caution to the wind or hurting yourself. And remember, as my friend and colleague, Dr Michael Klaper says, “your body is never not watching!”
So, during this upcoming holiday season of thanksgiving and celebration, let’s not forgot to take a moment and reflect, celebrate and give thanks for those things that are truly the most important and of the most value to us… our life, our health, our friends, and our families.
Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving.